Washington, D.C. – Before trekking down to CPAC I asked Ron Paul's national campaign chair why the Texas congressman was skipping out on a convention that the other candidates are attending. His quick one sentence response:
Too much campaigning to do across the country.
Paul's absence is notable at this CPAC because in previous years he has packed the place with supporters to assure that he would win the meaningless straw poll, often paying their way. His campaign website calendar does not list any events through Sunday but in a follow up email Benton said that Paul will be in Maine this weekend.
Meanwhile, in Vacationland, speculation is running rampant that Paul could win the caucuses on Saturday. In 2008 Paul finished third in Maine, just three points behind eventual nominee John McCain. Romney won Maine with 52% of the vote. Paul won the northernmost county, Arostook.
If Paul wins Maine it will validate his caucus strategy and likely lead to a surge in campaign donations. It does not mean that Paul is suddenly a serious contender for the GOP nomination as Paul has styled his run more as a movement-building campaign. It would be Paul's first time winning a state in any of his presidential runs.
While a Paul victory brings him closer to his goal of having some serious leverage at the nominating convention in Tampa, it also helps his rivals Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich by creating another problem for Romney. On paper Maine is a state that Romney should win easily and not have to campaign or spend resources in. Paul's strong grassroots operation has forced him to campaign there when he could be spending time and money in states where his support, historically, is not as strong.